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Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Circular No. 9, regarding Freedmen's Right to Vote, May 1, 1867

Congress passed the First and Second Reconstruction Acts in March 1867. Although the Constitution did not grant suffrage to African American men until ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 enfranchised black males at the state level. Congress charged the Freedmen’s Bureau with supervising elections in the Southern states, including voter registration.

Records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, National Archives and Records Administration

Such measures will be taken as will inform all Freedmen entitled to be registered….that, as they will not be allowed to suffer from the honest exercise of the right of suffrage, they should disregard all threats or undue influence tending to prevent or restrain the same.

Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, Circular No. 9, regarding Freedmen's Right to Vote, May 1, 1867 Such measures will be taken as will inform all Freedmen entitled to be registered….that, as they will not be allowed to suffer from the honest exercise of the right of suffrage, they should disregard all threats or undue influence tending to prevent or restrain the same.

The Freedmen's Bureau - 1

In 1865 Congress created the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, known as the Freedmen’s Bureau, to address the needs of displaced and formerly enslaved persons. The bureau administered humanitarian, economic, and legal services; supervised labor contracts; and redistributed abandoned lands. Congress re-chartered the Freedmen’s Bureau over President Andrew Johnson’s veto in 1866, but terminated its activities in 1872. African Americans elected to the House who had worked for the Freedmen’s Bureau included John Mercer Langston, Jeremiah Haralson, Josiah Walls, and Robert C. De Large.